You’d like to believe that research scientists who are publishing studies on weight training know what they’re doing, but not all scientific studies should be accepted as fact. Unfortunately, much as there are numerous bad personal trainers out there, there are numerous bad researchers.
To prove it, we selected an article published in the Journal of Strength of Conditioning Research by researchers from Brazil, who performed a study comparing the lat pulldown (done in front) to the behind-the-neck pulldown.
Researchers concluded that the front lat pulldown was superior to the behind-the-neck pulldown, despite the fact that the two versions of pulldowns yielded no difference in muscle activity in the lats. They further concluded that behind-the-neck pulldowns should be avoided, but they admitted that research shows that there is no risk of shoulder injuries (as many falsely claim) with this version of the exercise.[RELATED1]
Before you give up on the behind-the-neck pulldown—which FLEX concludes is an effective exercise for the lats when performed properly—you need to consider the exercise form on the pulldowns that the researchers had the subjects use. In the photos of the exercise that they used, both the pulldowns to the front and the behind-the-neck pulldowns were done with such horrible form that the results of the study basically mean nothing.
Do not give up on the behind-the-neck lat pulldown. To do it properly, bend forward at the waist, so you don’t have to flex your neck forward, which can be dangerous. Also, always look to FLEX for your training advice. We weed out the bad studies from the good ones so that you don’t have to make heads or tails of what researchers are telling you.